The John Scott Rule is in full effect, but the NHL has not totally abolished the write-in candidate for the 2017 All-Star Game.
On the heels of the most successful All-Star Game in NHL history last January — the only one to seep into the mainstream and steal headlines across network television the next morning — the NHL has instituted specific criteria to limit the pool of available players to write in.
In other words, the league doesn’t want another Scott, who was playing for the AHL’s St. John’s Ice Caps at the time of the game, to steal the show — even though Scott was a bona fide NHL player when voting began and concluded last year.
So, only players on an NHL roster as of Nov. 1 — or since added to the roster — are eligible to be written in. Additionally, any player assigned to the minors from Nov. 1 through the beginning of All-Star weekend on Jan. 26, is ineligible and will be replaced by the player with the second-most votes.
That still leaves plenty of room for what the NHL would call subversive All-Star selections. Voting began Thursday afternoon at NHL.com/vote and many fans on social media want to send players whose children will be proud of their selection, no matter what the NHL says.
Here are five off-the-radar write-in candidates to be the 2017 version of John Scott in Los Angeles:
The King Saver: Peter Budaj (Los Angeles). Before Jonathan Quick went down on opening night, Budaj had played just one NHL game in the previous 919 days. That he’s even eligible for voting is something in itself, considering Budaj played 79 games in the AHL over the last two seasons. Budaj, 34, has not only resurrected his career and usurped the job from planned backup Jeff Zatkoff, he’s also saved the hometown Kings’ season with a .915 save percentage. Kings fans will have a rooting interest in seeing the Pacific Division wins leader on home ice during All-Star weekend, even if Quick is back by then.
The Reverse John Scott: Shawn Thornton (Florida). So, the NHL created the John Scott Rule to prevent minor-league players from being voted in. How about the active NHL player who has played the most minor-league games? That would be Thornton, according to HockeyDB.com. The 39-year-old forward played a staggering 605 AHL games (St. John’s, Norfolk and Portland) before embarking on an 11-year full-time NHL career. Plus, this is likely the last year of Thornton’s career. Help send him out on top.
The All-Star Trash Talker: Steve Ott (Detroit). Few players have the agitating ability to take the opposition off their game quite like ‘Otter,’ one of the league’s all-time mouths. After a fight, Ott once skated by the opposition’s bench and said of an apparently disliked teammate: “Don’t worry, I punched him in the face for you guys. I know you want to, I just helped you out.” Put a microphone on this man for the NHL’s first All-Star Game on network TV (NBC) in the U.S. since 2004.
The Workhorse: Matt Cullen (Pittsburgh). Retired defenceman Luke Richardson is the only player in NHL history to appear in more games than Cullen (1,307) without being named to an All-Star Game. Now 40, Cullen has been in the league since the year Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews were born (1997). Cullen is also the third-oldest active player behind Jaromir Jagr and Shane Doan; those two players have been All-Stars a combined 15 times already. Let’s change it up and award a little longevity from a player who helped the Penguins to their fourth Stanley Cup last June.
The Shootout Dangler: Jakob Silfverberg (Anaheim). Every team contending for the $1 million prize needs one. Silfverberg, 26, is the NHL’s active successful shootout leader with a minimum of 30 attempts. He’s converted on 18-of-31 shoots (58.1 per cent), which is even better than T.J. Oshie’s 54.5 per cent at the moment. None of the three 3-on-3 contests in Nashville needed to be decided by the shootout, but that’s the format should the 20-minute mini games end tied.
No matter your choice, have your voice heard. Go vote. Voting ends on Jan. 2 at 11:59 p.m. ET.
Contact Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @frank_seravalli